What child sitting in church hasn't at one time thought, "Wow! It must have been great to be one of the disciples! To be right there when Jesus was performing those miracles and be able to hear exactly what he was saying." I often wonder the same thing - "What would it have been like to travel with Jesus?" Eileen Flynn notes that those who walked alongside Jesus knew a lot more about him. I was struck by her line, "They witnessed his moods, his relaxed laugher..."1
We just don't think about Jesus laughing. Yet in our home is an image that depicts just that aspect of Jesus.2 A priest friend gave us a print of this "Laughing Jesus", and my wife and I treasure it for two reasons. Obviously for the gift itself, but also for the image it conjures up: a Jesus who found humor in life! That's a Jesus I can relate to; a Jesus that relates to my humanity.
In recent years, I've been draw to the concept of "Christology from below."3 Scholars such as John Dominic Crossan present historical and archeological evidence of who Jesus might have been, by outlining the type of life an itinerant preacher of the Mediterranean in those days. But searching for the historic Jesus, we have little beyond the Gospel texts themselves. There are mentions of Jesus by historians such as Josephus, but they tell us little of who he was. We have no physical description, and Biblical scholars disagree about exactly how much of what the Gospel writers quote Jesus as saying really came from his lips. Flynn presents a biography of Jesus based on the Gospel texts, but rightly cautions that the stories "should not be approached from a perspective of naÃÂ¯ve literalism."4
Perhaps we can best discover...